Slow Learners: E-Mail Evangelism At The Air Force Academy Sparks Concern

Air Force Academy seems unable to solve the crisis of religious intolerance on their campus. Less than a week after Air Force officials issued a statement reminding officers that they must respect the religious beliefs of others, the highest-ranking cadet at the Academy sent a religious e-mail to thousands of fellow cadets.

The e-mail, disseminated by Wing Commander Nicholas Jurewicz, lists a number of quotations including several about Jesus. He also included a Bible verse, "Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ," reported the Associated Press.

Many were upset about the evangelism. "It doesn't matter if it is Amway or preaching Jesus," said Capt. MeLinda Morton, a chaplain who was recently fired for her criticism of the power of evangelicals at the Academy. "It should only be official material if it is for general distribution." She added that the message "would have been fine if he had just sent it to his five best friends."

Last month Americans United issued a report on religious bias and official promotion of fundamentalist Christianity at the Air Force Academy. Detailed in the report were allegations that an Academy chaplain exhorted cadets to witness to non-Christians cadets and bring them to evangelical services and that Academy instructors proselytized in classrooms. In one instance, an instructor ordered cadets to pray before taking a test. AU also found that senior cadets harassed non-Christian junior cadets over their religious beliefs and that that evangelical cadets are routinely given passes to attend religious meetings off campus but that cadets wishing to attend meetings of non-believers were denied the same right.

Since the report was issued, concern in Congress and around the country has grown as the full scope of the crisis is revealed. U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) gathered signatures from 45 other House members on a letter to Air Force officials urging a thorough investigation of the charges.

The controversy surrounding this latest e-mail shows that efforts by the Academy to teach religious tolerance are failing to get the message across: it is inappropriate and unconstitutional for military officers to evangelize in their official capacity. The Air Force needs to act immediately to put a stop to this behavior at their Academy.